A flock of wild turkeys have descended on Staten Island, and they are creating quite a stir, stopping traffic, attracting curious onlookers, and making tempers flare.
Residents are frustrated by the gobblers’ invasion—the birds are fouling their yards and waking them with loud pre-dawn mating cries. The interlopers are also aggressive, they complain, and difficult to shoo away. During the last decade a particularly large urban turkey population has settled near the psychiatric hospital, leading to controversy about how to deal with the unwanted visitors.
Tensions have been particularly high since August, when approximately 80 wild turkeys, congregating near the hospital, were rounded up by the US Department of Agriculture and killed. An animal shelter in the Catskills took in 28 birds (all they had room for). Last month a second group of birds were killed.
State officials and some residents have defended the roundups as being necessary for the protection of patients and for sanitary reasons, but the killings have sparked outrage. Protests have been organized and thousands have signed online petitions to stop the slaughters.
Wild turkey populations have rebounded since the 1950s and the birds, normally forest-dwellers, have quickly adapted to urban environments. A turkey nicknamed Zelda currently lives in lower Manhattan, but was not available for comment.